EC: If I may ask, what are some of the pros and cons of having a publisher?
Me: I haven’t had any of my books published yet, but based on what other people have told me, the pros of having a publisher are:
1) You know somebody believes in your work. Agreeing to publish a new author is a big gamble on the part of the publisher. They must really think you’re something to give you a contract. That’s a big boost of confidence.
2) The advance. You can use it to invest in yourself, buying more tools to improve your work (e.g. editors, publicists, workshops, tours).
3) Royalties. If you get a steady income from writing, you can invest more time in writing, which is where real improvement and productivity comes from.
4) Name. One self-published title competes with all other self-published titles (more or less), but a big-name publisher tells potential readers that your work must be high-quality.
5) In-house tools. Publishers have their own editors, line-editors, and layout people to find and help you fix problems in your book.
6) Packaging and publicity. Cover art, getting your book onto websites and into stores…all the things that would take away from your writing time if had to do them yourself.
I’m sure there’s more I’m not thinking of, but anyway it will all fall under that “things that take away from writing time” category. From a productivity standpoint, the more of the non-writing stuff you can get someone else to do, the better.
EC: Can you convince a mainstream publisher that you’re worth publishing if you have solid sale records as an indi writer? I know some people have done that.
Me: Yes, good sales of self-published books is definitely something you should include in your cover letter when you submit your work to agents and publishers.
EC: At the same time a good friend of mine said that most publishers don’t like books that have already been published. This strikes me as sort of odd, since if something has sold you would think it would represent less risk.
Me: I think the logic is that if a work has been self-published, it has already reached everyone who might want to read it. It’s also been out long enough for pirates to spread free versions, so a traditionally published edition would have more competition and a smaller pool of potential readers.
As an author, my takeaway is that I have to let some books go. I had plans for sequels to Tyrannosaur Queen, but I have plans for new stories as well, and those new stories have more potential to make it big. We look forward, not backward 🙂